The Gran Paradiso North face
This trip was important to me, because it was the first time I and my mountain fellows go to climb on a real glacier... Our usual playground are Gran Sasso Range
, wonderful limestone massifs, but lacking in real, wide glaciers... So, after a short course with a guide in Alagna - Monte Rosa, where we learn the basic tips of glacier travel and we climbed our first two peaks higher than 4000m, Leo, Marco, Stefano and me were ready to attempt our first “4000m” all by ourselves!
We chose Gran Paradiso for its beauty, but also for its easiness... We want to climb from Chabod Hut, crossing Laveciau Glacier, because it’s a real glacier, with many seracs and crevasses (not like the route from Vittorio Emanuele Hut, where you don’t realize to be on a glacier because of its simplicity!)
Day 1 - Approaching
At the starting of the path to Chabod Hut
Placed in the older National Park of Italy, Gran Paradiso doesn’t give cableway or chairlift that can carry you in altitude: mechanical lifts are banned from this wonderful place, and from the bottom of the valleys around, you have to go up only by your strength.
So, wednesday 19th july 2007, in the early afternoon, we leave our car in Valsavaranche-Pravieux (1830m) and we start our adventure!
The path to Chabod Hut is comfortable and well traced: it climbs across a fine Larix wood and then exits in green pastures, close to pretty streams... Usually, they say, you can see Steinbocks around, but we didn’t see...
Climbing to Chabod Hut
In less than 2h 30min we arrive to the Hut. Chabod Hut (2750m) is one of the best Hut I visited: it’s new, with a pretty alpine structure and a nice look. The rooms are clean and comfortable and so the toilets... After a night passed at the quite awful Gnifetti Hut, in Monte Rosa Range, it seems to be at the Hilton! (I’m joking, but not much...)
Sunset on Gran Paradiso
The view on Gran Paradiso north side is wonderful: we can see the north-west face of Gran Paradiso, Piccolo Paradiso, Becca di Montandaynè and other nice mountain... At the sunset, the colors of these mountains become amazing: it’s one of the best sunset I ever seen!
After a good dinner and a little walk around, we go to bed...
Day 2 – The Climb
Dawn on the glacier...
The night passes quiet, but quickly... We wake up at 3.45 am and, after a quick breackfast, we’re ready to start.
Out of the Hut, about 50 mountaineers are getting ready. They all have the same goal: reach the summit of Gran Paradiso! So, at 4.40 am
, we start at the light of our frontal lamps, following the long queue...
We rise up the morene in the dark, and arrive at the Laveciau Glacier front (about 3200m) when is starting to become day. There, we roped us and start the climb.
Crossing under the seracs
It’s not too cold, but the wind that accompany the dawn make feel a bit frozen. The route is easy, but the track must avoid many deep crevasses...
The scenery is amazing: the first sunbeams paint the mountain and the glacier around of stunning colors! There’s a dream-like atmosphere, and the big serracs that stand over us make us shiver a little, thinking that one day they ‘ll fall down, with their millions of tons of ice...
Traffic jam on the final ridge!
With wide zig-zagging, we climb up the glacier valley, passing over the most crevassed part of the route. Then, we head forward-slightly right, and we reach the summit of the Schiena d’Asino (Donkey’s Back)
, at about 3700m, where the route from Vittorio Emanuele Hut joins to our route. Here the view changes, and it’s wonderful: we can see the Gran Paradiso rocky ridge, where the route passes. The panorama is exciting!
From Schiena d’Asino we bear left, go over Montcorvè Pass and rise up the slope to the final ridge... But there, we found the biggest traffic jam I ever seen on a mountain! The last few meters to the Madonna statue placed on the summit were overcrowded by a mass of mountaineers! We must stand several minutes, in the shadow, in a place not so safe because of the traffic of climbers that are going down and cross with us... A cold wind blow and make us cold... Well, we are arrived at 4050m, who cares if we don’t reach the 4061m of the classical summit? At 8.50 am, we decide to come back: we are satisfied of the climb, anyway!
Descending towards Lavaciau Glacier
So, we start our descent with a little disappointment: like many other climbers this day, we were so close to the summit, but we couldn’t touch it...
We go down for the same route we have climbed, but while in the morning there were several roped parties, now only few mountaineers are going down, preferring, the most part of them, to going down towards Vittorio Emanuele Hut, passing by a safer glacier...
In facts, even if it’s not late (about 10.00/11.00 am), the warm sun is melting the snow covering the crevasses, and several times, crossing snow-bridges, we feel a foot falling in a hole, down through the bottom of the crevasse... Well, we are roped in 4 persons, so we’re quite safe but we’re not much practiced in glacier travelling, and this make feel us a little thrill!
Despite of not so good conditions, we arrive at the end of the glacier at about 11.30 am: on the moraine, now safe, we hug ourselves and congratulate each other first time this day (we can’t do it on the summit!).
From there, the way to the Hut and to the car parked along the Valsavaranche road is very easy...
Sunset on Becca di Montandaynè and Piccolo Paradiso
This trip was one of my most exciting mountaineering experience, not for the technical engagement (the route is easy), but for the wonderful setting and because it was my first time over 4000m without a guide!
Unforunately the route is often crowded: they said it to me, but I didn’t belevie to meet so many people! Avoid weekend and August (it’s the month in wich 90% of italian people make their holidays...)
Gran Paradiso summit, 4061 m (we stopped some meters before the summit, at about 4050m)
Pravieux in Valsavaranche, 1850 m
Total elevation gain:
about 2200 m
it took to us (from the Hut to the summit and back to the Hut) about 7 hrs 40 min (4 hrs 10 min to go, 3 hrs 30 min to return) no counting stops.